“When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.” – Joshua 3:3
In the camp of Israel, the ark represented God Himself residing with His people. The ark was emblematic of God’s promise to never leave them nor forsake them. So wherever the ark was, there God’s people were to be as well. However, the presence of God also comes with a warning. The people must stay at least 2,000 cubits away from the ark (vs. 4). This is over one-half mile away (or just under one kilometre)! This is to teach Israel that they cannot just come and approach God anyway and anytime that they feel like it. No, God sets the rules for how sinners can approach Him.
You might think that 2,000 cubits sounds excessive. Wouldn’t 1,000 cubits be good enough? Or 500? No! What a typically human and sinful response! The Lord is never content with our “good enough.” Our fallen hearts always think little of God’s holiness and our own sinfulness. We so easily convince ourselves that we are not as bad as God says we are.
The Bible tells us that God is holy, pure and absolutely righteous; and we are not! This is exactly why He had to send His only begotten Son into this world as the Mediator between God’s holiness and us as sinners. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. Through faith in Christ, we are made as holy as God Himself. In Christ we can “go after” God and serve Him with all our heart in this world.
Suggestions for prayer
Praise God for His holiness and majesty. Confess your sin before Him. Ask Him for the leading of His Holy Spirit to draw you closer to your Saviour, and that you may find your rest in Him.